A business is so much more than a “job”. It’s a lifestyle, a world-view, a reflection of the type of person you want to be. It’s how you want to contribute to the community, where you see yourself in your future, and in some cases, it’s what you want to leave behind.
So many business owners tell me that they want to take their business to the next level, but they never define why. Everyone has goals, but they rarely take the time to write everything down and decide the “how’s” and “why’s” of what they want their business to be. In my experience, it’s not only helpful to carefully consider and record your vision – it’s essential.
These personal goals and business goals can be defined and followed by crafting a personal vision and a business vision. Here is a brief outline of both and not just how they are different, but also how they can work together.
Create your personal vision first. As the owner of the business, your vision is key to where you want to take the business.
Do you dream about being able to take your family on vacation to an exotic location once a year? How about a four-day workweek, or buying your dream home? These things could be part of your personal vision.
When crafting a personal vision statement, you’ll need to write down where you want to be in a year from now or 2 years from now. This could include considering your desired material lifestyle, your passion giving back, your ideal workweek, time with your family, and time enjoying the things you love (not your business). If you want to make sure that you are making enough money so that your children can have their college tuition paid for, this should be recorded in your personal vision statement too.
In addition to this, it’s important to include an exit strategy in your personal vision. This will detail how you would like your business to proceed when you retire, including whether or not you intend on naming a successor (e.g. a spouse or child), or if you would prefer to sell the business. Be mindful that your exit strategy is carefully considered, and entails what you plan to do in place of work. Some business owners find it hard to leave their business behind, and it can never hurt to plan ahead for how you will fill your free time in the future.
Once you’ve completed your personal vision, it’s time to concentrate on your company vision. The two go hand in hand. If for example, you want to spend only 6 months of the year working at your business, then part of your business plan needs to include finding a current or future employee who can take on some of your current roles and responsibilities. If your plan is financial freedom, then your company vision will be to increase your sales and marketing efforts, etc.
As the business owner, it’s up to you to set the company vision; it is not a team approach. Although you need to share it with your staff, the company vision statement needs to be synergetic with your personal vision so that the two can work together to create a business that benefits both you and your employees.
The company vision will also help you create a big picture idea of what your company will look like as a whole, for both you and your employees. This is why creating a company vision can enhance your existing leadership skills, which in turn helps your employees attain their own career visions.
Writing out a personal vision and business vision and following them is crucial, and often, overlooked in creating the kind of business you’ll be proud of. Writing out what you really want out of your business in a personal vision and then writing out how it can be achieved through your company vision can be both humbling and gratifying.
To get a better understanding of how to help your business grow, contact me today to find out more about joining The Alternative Board.
As a business owner, you feel fortunate when landing a large client. This client can become your bread and butter, but this could also mean that your success is tied to theirs, and if they struggle, so will your business. Should another supplier offer your client better pricing or packages, their loyalty to your business can be compromised. Your largest client may have overdue payments or expect lower prices if they know your dependency on them. However, a greater concern is if you are spending all of your time and resources focused on your main source of income, you are likely to neglect or not seek additional clients.
There certainly are benefits to having larger clients, including the consistent revenue stream and workload, aligning your brand with their reputation, and possible referrals and references when trying to land new clients.
In my 30 years of business experience, I’ve found it critical to diversify your client portfolio with large and smaller clients. In doing so, you reduce the risk of the impact to your business if a large client leaves.
Despite your best efforts, losing a key client can be devastating for some businesses, especially when more than 30% of your business is reliant on them.
Here are a few suggestions I’d recommend to help you safeguard your business from the loss of a large client:
1. Stay connected with all your clients
As the business owner, making a call to your client’s C-level person is critical in gauging the health of their business. Ensure you speak with that person on an ongoing basis and integrate your value. If they do stop working with you, hopefully you’ve laid the groundwork for working with them in other capacities (e.g. as a consultant on an as-needed basis) or keeping the door open for their possible return or referrals to other businesses.
2. Foster Business Development
Create an action plan for networking and building an ongoing flow of potential clients. Leverage your existing clients for new business. Participate at networking events and seek referrals from clients.
3. Advance your marketing efforts
Create a lead generation marketing plan to support your business development efforts. This might include call out campaigns, email blasts, downloads, boosting social networking posts, and pay per click.
4. Join a Peer Advisory Board
It’s been proven that by sharing with other like-minded individuals, it helps to increase your bottom line. Members of Peer Advisory Boards are asked to contribute industry information or business ideas and meet on a regular basis, sharing best practices, networking, and putting forward objective recommendations. By hearing encouragement through a different perspective from other business professionals, you can help grow your business.
Through the continual development of a diversified client base, losing a large client will not devastate your business, but stand as a learning experience and opportunity for growth.
As a business advisor, one of the top issues business owners ask for advice on is how to increase sales. My response is always the same: sales is at the heart of every company, and every employee is responsible for it, but in different ways.
No matter what size your business is, there are several touch points in a sales process, whether that is expanding your services with an existing customer or sales to a new customer.
When you are looking at your company’s sales, don’t just look at the person or people with “sales” in their titles; there is a role for everyone. Here is my checklist for sales accountability, that once checked off, will help you get a clear picture of where your sales infrastructure might need some help, and if everyone in place will help you increase sales.
- Owner sets the sales strategy
A sales strategy is usually written to cover a year and might include outlining the focus of what services/products target which customer, acquisition vs. sales growth with an existing customer, and long and short-term sales goals for each, as well as determining the sales cycle and which markets you will go after. A sales strategy lays out the steps and methods necessary for customers in different stages of the sales cycle.
- Marketing supports that strategy
Your marketing team or agency needs to create a plan to support this with marketing activities, including promoting your website, creating digital promotions, trade show collateral, social media, phone scripts, presentations, campaigns, sell sheets, banner ads or online advertising as well as list acquisition and management.
- Execution by the sales team
Although each sales person has to take responsibility for the execution of the strategy, they need to first understand the strategy and their role in executing it. You’ll need to work with your sales team or with your Director of Sales to ensure they understand your strategy, and to explain which marketing tools they have to support their efforts. They need to know techniques to handle both customer acquisition as well as customer retention opportunities. For example, if they are to execute a call-out campaign to new customers, make sure they understand the value proposition and have support materials at hand to provide to the client.
- Walk the Walk
From the person who answers the phone and your customer service staff to your technicians and any front line staff, every touch point with a customer or potential customer must be positive and genuine. Each interaction with a customer is an opportunity to make a lasting impression of the value your company brings to the table. If they are spoken to in a valued and respectful manner, it could make the difference between investing further with your current services or allowing you to speak with them about your new services/products.
Share your sales strategy with your entire team as all your employees contribute, even in a small way, to helping your business grow. Never underestimate the power of a warm greeting – it can lead to more sales than you might think.
Whether you’re considering selling your business, or are just interested in knowing how to put a value on your investment, the evaluation process can often prove difficult.
There are a number of factors you might want to consider when evaluating your business’ net worth.
Your team, assets, processes and recurring revenue are key factors in evaluating your business when reviewed with the net earnings and cash flow. These key factors help to reduce the buyer’s risk and significantly increase the multiple used in the transaction and the total company value. Ultimately, the business is worth whatever the buyer thinks it’s worth, but you can estimate your value by looking at several different factors including the ones I’ve shared with you below:
Consider your team
When evaluating the value of your business, it is important to include the key employees and management team. Buyers generally require a strong management team to continue to run the business and are concerned with your own knowledge of the business — relationships, processes and ideas. They’ll question what the impact will be on the company if the owner is no longer operating the business.
Look at current business processes already in place
A business process is a set of steps or tasks that you and your team use repeatedly to create a product or service, reach a specific goal, or provide value to a customer or supplier. When processes work well, they can significantly improve efficiency, productivity, and customer satisfaction. This is an ongoing process, but ensure you have a plan in place to document all of your processes. This allows a buyer to see how you process your offerings and allows them to see what is involved in the operations of your business and can show your business is independent from you.
Assess the recurring revenues
Recurring revenue is predictable revenue that can be expected to continue in the future. It makes a company more stable and certain, both operationally and financially. Having recurring revenue as a portion of your total revenues lowers the risk associated with a company’s operations, and can help your company withstand a hiccup in sales. Establishing recurring revenue isn’t only good for business – it ensures you’ll get the maximum value when it comes time to sell.
Evaluate hard & soft assets
A company’s assets are an important factor to consider when determining value. There are hard assets, such as equipment, furniture, and inventory, and there are soft assets, such as patents, trademarks and software. Consider if all of your business’ assets are for sale or if you plan to include accounts receivable and inventory. Hard assets have value, which can be calculated by estimating the resale value of your equipment, furniture, and inventory. The value placed on soft assets such as patents, trademarks and software, can be a greater proportion of the total value of your business than is the value of tangible assets.
Evaluating your business properly is not a simple undertaking since it concerns several factors, many of which are hard to quantify. It is recommended that business owners looking to sell their business consult with an expert in order to reach a realistic estimated price, but the factors noted above will have a significant impact on the price a buyer will be willing to pay.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, with over 300 million registered users in over 200 countries and territories, so it should come as no surprise that LinkedIn is one of the most powerful business development tools available today. Business owners and key sale leaders can leverage the power of LinkedIn for forging strong connections and finding new business.
LinkedIn has become the new “Rolodex”, the go-to place for finding colleagues, current clients, potential clients and vendors. With a professional profile, image and regular participation in groups, your network will increase, which in turn increases your reach and exposure and potential business opportunities. Many business owners would agree that LinkedIn has great potential, but are either concerned about the time commitment or are unsure how to go about getting started.
Here are a few simple steps to get you started in engaging in business development activities on LinkedIn:
- Step 1 – Look Professional: Just like a face-to-face introduction, your profile page is your first chance to make a good impression. Users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn. This means:
- Invest some time in writing a professional summary
- Add your skills
- Have a professional picture taken (do not take a selfie)
- Add volunteer experience and any awards you have won
They have recently added a recommendation feature on LinkedIn, which is like having an endorsement for your services. Try to have at least 4 recommendations on your profile page.
- Step 2 – Make Connections: Having a long list of connections is essential for increasing exposure and the likelihood of others finding you, but make sure they are the “right” type of connections.
- Decide if there is an industry you want to target or a type of job title e.g. accountant – simply search for exactly what you are looking for
- Once you have a few potential connections, find out more about them by visiting their profiles, seeing if you have connections in common, where they are located, etc.
- Send them a connection request by introducing who you are and the reason for contacting them
- If they accept your invitation, be active and take the initiative by arranging a phone call or a face-to-face meeting
- Step 3 – Join Groups: Think of these as a local Chamber of Commerce. There are groups for every industry, and they function as a place to ask questions, perform research, make new connections, and get noticed.
- Search groups that you think your target audience will visit
- Join ONLY as many groups as you can manage. Groups tend to send notifications, which is good if you plan to keep up with them, but annoying if you don’t
- Participate in the groups on a regular basis if you can. Your audience needs to hear from you and see you being active and offering expert advice
- Comment on other people’s posts, “like” them, and most importantly see who the regular contributors are and see if there is opportunity to work together or connect in some way
- To connect with them, follow Step 2
In addition to using LinkedIn as a business development and marketing tool, the platform can also be used for recruitment. Whether it’s sharing a job posting on your company profile, or paying for a job posting or sponsored job ad, LI allows you to see in a click of a button a more complete look at your candidates.
As you can see, LinkedIn has a lot to offer but the biggest step is making the decision to give it the time it deserves to foster and manage potential leads. From personal experience, investing time in LI as a business development tool will yield results that far outweigh that time investment.
Do you use LI for business development now? How much time do you dedicate to it and are there other features of LI that you have found helpful for business development?